Anne Pasternak on Black Mountain College


As part of the Annual Guide to Galleries, Museums and Artists (A.i.A.’s August issue), we preview the 2014-15 season of museum exhibitions worldwide. In addition to offering their own top picks, our editors asked select artists, curators and collectors to identify the shows they are looking forward to. Here, museum director Anne Pasternak talks about Black Mountain College.

“I learned about Black Mountain College in the late 1980s, thanks to Mary Emma Harris’s seminal book The Arts at Black Mountain College, which had just come out. This was a pivotal moment for me in understanding the magic that can happen when artists are able to collaborate and experiment without boundaries.

“American art would not be what it is today were it not for Black Mountain College. One reason I’m so excited about this show is that it allows a younger generation of artists, who may feel pressure to conform to a market system, to see what was possible all these years ago. It should be incredibly inspiring.

“When I talk to artists, I ask, ‘What are your dreams and how can we make them a reality? How can we break boundaries together?’ Black Mountain College fostered a mingling of disciplines—theater, dance, poetry, archi-tecture, visual art and music—that still feels rare today. Why is that? I think it’s hard for many American organiza-tions to do this because the nonprofit funding landscape is now so discipline-specific. Institutions have become more rigid, perhaps, while artists are best at collaborating and messing things up.”

“Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957,” Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Oct. 10, 2015-Jan. 24, 2016. 

Anne Pasternak is the director of the Brooklyn Museum, N.Y.